In today’s fast-paced society, stress has become a part of our lives as we cope with daily events and demands such as work, school and other social interactions. As such, health and wellness have inevitably risen to be among the top concerns of city dwellers. From maintaining a healthy diet to hitting the gym on a regular basis, or even engaging in curated wellness programmes such as CrossFit and Barre, Singaporeans have become increasingly health-conscious.
For entrepreneurs with a presence in the island’s vibrant wellness scene, the growth in such business opportunities has been palpable. The booming health and wellness industry has also been bolstered by the government's intensified efforts in advocating healthy living. One of such focus is the ways to better manage stress levels in competitive work environments that many workers face.
Ikeda Group, one of the early health and wellness providers, has successfully capitalised on this imminent need for a healthier and more meaningful lifestyle. Established in 2009, Ikeda Group has proven itself to be a formidable force to be reckoned with, having founded Singapore’s first traditional Japanese onsen spa. Ikeda has also subsequently achieved over 20 acclaimed Spa Awards.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer, Mr Eric Tan, Ikeda Group has also expanded into the research and development of cosmetic skin care, in partnership with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). In 2017, the company launched Irén and Face Shower Bar, with Irén being Ikeda Group’s first foray into the skincare market. The Face Shower Bar, a quick service facial bar, is the first “dry bar” of facials in Singapore. Subsequently, the company also ventured into the education sector, which spun off into Kenshu Academy, Singapore’s first Japanese beauty school.
“To be successful in the current market, you have to disrupt your business before someone else does. If you don’t do it, your competitors will. At Ikeda, we are constantly thinking and planning about how we can challenge the status quo, push boundaries and embrace changes. This is why we invest in a new business every two or three years. In 2015, we started a new R&D team together with A*STAR.”
“At that time, Singapore’s economy was at its worst since 2009, amid a sharp fall in oil prices and global financial market volatility. It was definitely a big risk that we took as we invested all our fund reserve into the project. Fortunately for us, it turned out to be a successful venture where we launched our new skincare brand, Irén, in December 2017. Moving forward, we are now planning to invest in big data research and artificial intelligence (AI),” Eric added.
PHILOSOPHY OF MANAGEMENT
Ikeda’s vision is to become the world's most trusted beauty franchise by developing its people into business partners. From just one beauty centre in Singapore, Ikeda has successfully expanded its business into the education, skincare and franchising vertical markets. According to Eric, its management philosophy is to practice the concept of "respect for human beings" in the conduct of everyday business. Hence, it is important to create a conducive work environment so that each employee can pursue his or her growth to become a valuable business partner.
“In our company, the organisational chart is reversed. We called it the inverted pyramid. Our customers are on top, after which we have our employees, and then comes the managers. For me, as the CEO, I am situated right at the bottom. My bosses are the managers above me. The managers’ bosses are the employees above them, so on and so forth. In my perspective, I consider bottom-up leadership to be an effective way of management as it crowdsources the wisdom of employees in the company before making a visionary decision. In a way, this also boost the morale of our employees and give them a sense of ownership as a business partner,” said Eric.
MOVING BEYOND THE SHORES
As with innovation, internationalisation is no longer a “nice-to-have” strategy in any business model. In order to sustain long-term growth and to attract a larger talent pool, SMEs need to reconsider how they can venture into foreign markets to add value to their existing products and services. Echoing the Government’s push for SMEs to internationalise, Eric believes that businesses need to seize opportunities in this current global business environment.
“The key to internationalisation is the successful business partnership that can provide quick access to new geographic markets. Finding a great business partner is like finding someone to marry. We need to be hand in hand through tough times. Not only must business partners possess the complementary strengths to help you to grow your business, they must also share the same “chemistry,” values and vision.”
“After many “blind dates,” we are lucky to find some good compatible partners who are helping us to grow our business in Europe, US and China, which is planned for the next year. It is important for you to think “global” at the very start even if you think your company is too small. With digitalisation, you can always test the foreign market without having a physical presence. Therefore, with minimum investment, you can first set up a digital presence to gather feedback from your target audience as a market readiness study before diving in.”
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